Minimalism in faith

I would bet that every faith believing person has struggled with doubt at some point in his or her life. Faith is hard, though this difficulty is not something often discussed — something Sunday School rarely teaches. Faith is not something that is always easy. When children are being taught felt board stories about Adam and Eve, the tower of Babel, and Jonah and the whale, they are rarely prefaced with the uncertainty these stories can create. Whether literal or allegorical, many stories in many faiths cause doubt that can be hard to overcome. I have struggled with doubt at times in my Christian faith, and I have used what I call minimalism in faith to get back to the root of my belief.

What is minimalism in faith? It is just barely believing? Throwing out all the faith clutter? Not necessarily. Minimalism in faith is going back to your strongest held, faith based belief, while you address any doubts you may have. Focus on one element of your faith while you wrestle with all the rest.

I look at my spiritual faith like a timeline. There are certain things I would argue a Christian should believe. A very simple timeline for Christianity may look like this. A deistic God created everything, set the world in motion, man failed, God sent his son to redeem humanity, Christ died and rose again. Something like that.

Adam and Eve aren’t literal, the flood wasn’t global, and evolution makes the Bible irrelevant. These are examples of things that have made me question my Christian faith at some point in my life. This is where minimalism in faith can help. There have been, and will be, times in my life where I have doubt. It is usually sparked by something that is important, though not necessary for my belief in God. In times like these, I trace my timeline backward to a point where I can reestablish a solid faith foundation. For example, if I am discussing religion and someone makes a compelling argument that disproves a historical claim of an Old Testament story, I may minimize my timeline to get back on solid ground. “I am having trouble wrapping my head around this right now, but I am confident in this certain aspect.” I may have some questions to unpack, but I can stand firm in this belief that God created everything, and rest there for a while.

Often times, I have heard stories from friends who have lost their faith completely because someone disproved to them the physical evidence of a global flood. While I think there is much that can be learned from the story of Noah, I do not think its acceptance is required to have a belief in the Christian God. If you find yourself in a similar scenario, you can walk back your timeline to a place where your faith is stronger and build from there. Maybe you will only get as far as believing in a deistic God as a first cause, but that can hold you in place while you unpack the rest of your questions. I think the idea of minimalism in faith is a great tool to remind us that the baby doesn’t need to go out with the bathwater in times of doubt. It is okay to be skeptical about certain things. It is okay to be unsure of elements in religion where you may not have the answer.

Minimalism in faith is meant to help you secure a fundamental starting point. In times of doubt there is a backstop, as well as a starting line, to hold onto as long as it’s needed. Faith can be hard. Doubt will come. In these times, don’t give it all up. Follow your faith timeline to where you can park for a while and unpack your questions there.

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